With the NBA another day closer to its July 30 reopening, a piece of its plan to battle racial injustice fell into place.
The league and the players union agreed late Friday on messages players can wear instead of their names on the backs of their jerseys for the first four days of the league’s reboot.
Among the messages reportedly approved: “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Vote,” “Justice,” “Stand Up,” “Listen,” “Listen to Us,” “Say Their Names,” “Peace,” “How Many More,” “Education Reform,” “Liberation,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Enough,” Si Se Puede,” “Say Her Name,” “Mentor,” “I Am A Man,” “Speak Up,” “Ally,” “Anti-Racist,” “Justice Now,” “Power to the People,” “See Us,” “Hear Us,” “Respect Us,” “Love Us” and “Group Economics.”
After the first four days, players can keep the messages on their jerseys with their names below their number. Players also may forgo messaging altogether.
“I just think the NBA, we lead,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley said. “I think (commissioner) Adam Silver, to me, is the best. He’s trying to make it right, trying to bring awareness front and center. And for the players, we’re kind of like, ‘I don’t know if we should go there. We don’t know if the league would take over protests with a stance.’ And he’s basically giving us a platform, a stage.
“I know we’re going to do cool, different stuff, I even heard with commercials, not even with the court, and what they’re gonna be able to do. So with the names, I like it. I think it’s going to give people a different chance.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said coaches have “discussed ways that we can wear things visually, but also ways we can be very vocal and use our platform to help this movement.”
The NBA also will have Black Lives Matter printed on the courts in prominent locations, according to multiple reports. The league and union also are discussing other plans to help players better use their platforms, including bringing in a series of guest speakers.
In the handbook provided to players for the resumption of the season, the league stated its intentions to use its return to amplify these issues.
“A central goal of our season restart will be to utilize the NBA’s platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice, including combating systemic racism, expanding educational and economic opportunities across the Black community, enacting meaningful police and criminal justice reform and promoting greater civic engagement,” the league said on the second page of the handbook. “We are in discussions with the Players Association to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the NBA, its teams and players can best address these important social issues and uniquely position our league to drive action and create meaningful and generational change.”
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Despite such efforts, Pelicans guard JJ Redick said there’s no “comfort level” for players right now — not in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and with so many people fighting for change.
“To say that we have any sort of comfort level would be a lie. There is no comfort level. We’re not with our families. We’re not at our homes. We’re isolated in a bubble in the middle of a hot spot in the middle of Florida while there’s social unrest in the country, and we’re three months away potentially from the most important election in our lifetimes. So there’s all that going on,” Redick said Thursday. “Now, we have to figure out a way to perform and play basketball and all that because I do believe it is the right thing to go and play. But there is absolutely no comfort level. None. And I know the league and I know the union has tried to create this environment, and I get it.
“But, there’s so much else going on right now. We’re going to go play and do our best, but we realize there are so many more important things.”
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.
WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.
WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.
HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.